PLANNING FOR A RENAISSANCE
NEWPORT CITY – The "Renaissance Project" is coming to Newport and area planners are starting to ask what the impacts will be. Impact fees could help with city development studies to answer that question. However, Newport Planning Commission members and zoning administrator Paul Dreher don't feel that impact fees will discourage developers. “You need money now to plan for the future,” said Clark Curtis.The "Renaissance Project" includes tearing down the Waterfront Plaza and replacing it with a new shopping center, hotel and conference center; razing the Spates Block, which houses apartments and storefronts on Main Street, and replacing it with the Renaissance Block.Many people want to be part of the multimillion dollar development plans, Dreher said. “It’s no accident that, right before the announcement was made, Bobby Miller announced an 82-unit housing development,” said Dreher, referring to the "Old Newport Hospital" Miller owns on Highland Avenue. “There are going to be a whole bunch of things coming down the pike.”Newport needs new locations for displaced businesses, Dreher said.Curtis said he thought the plan was to insure that the tenants of the Waterfront Plaza had a new location before the shopping center is torn down.Dreher wasn’t sure about that, but Doug Spates, of Memphremagog Rentals, told the Burlington Free Press that there are ample living units in the area to house residents from the Spates Block. Ruth Sproull said a Main Street merchant said she would not have to move until the end of 2013 and was looking for a place to relocate.None of the commission members or Dreher knew if Tony Pomerleau, owner of the Waterfront Plaza, was renewing leases at his property.Dreher is concerned that the infrastructure and area public services will not be able to handle a sudden growth of population.Developers can construct a tall building, but if it exceeds the height of the fire department’s tower truck, then someone will have to buy one that will reach. Dreher also talked about the impact on North Country Hospital.In an effort to ease downtown traffic, there is a plan at some point to build a third bridge from Coventry Street to the Glen Road. The bridge could be used as a bypass. The city will see things happen fast over the next few years, said Charles Elliott.